Health Department Reports Death of Child with Influenza

For Immediate Release: December 31, 2003

Contact: Vermont Department of Health
Communications Office
802- 863-7281

BURLINGTON, VT—The Vermont Department of Health today confirmed the first reported death of a child due to influenza in Vermont this year. A Windsor County 3-year-old, who had a pre-existing serious medical condition, died earlier this week in a hospital.

“It is my sad duty to report the death of a Vermont child due to complications of influenza. Our hearts go out to the family for their terrible loss,” said Health Commissioner Paul Jarris, MD.

“I know that national reports of serious illness and death in children have parents especially worried,” said Dr. Jarris. “However, there is no evidence that the strain of flu that is dominating this season is worse than in past years or that flu is affecting children more than in past years.

“Unfortunately, every year an estimated 36,000 people in the U.S. die as a result of flu. Most people who get flu recover in a week or two, but very young children, the elderly and people with serious medical conditions are at highest risk for life-threatening complications such as pneumonia.”

Flu can often be confused with the common cold, but flu is mainly characterized by body aches, extreme tiredness, headache, dry cough and fever. Fever is usually 102º F, but can go as high as 104º F. Common cold symptoms - such as congestion, sneezing, runny nose and sore throat - are sometimes seen with flu. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are symptoms that are more common with the flu among children than adults.

“Most cases of flu can be treated at home with bed rest and drinking plenty of fluids. But watch for emergency warning signs and get immediate medical attention if you see them,” said Dr. Jarris.

Emergency warning signs in children:

Emergency warning signs for adults:

Influenza is not a disease that is required to be reported to the Vermont Department of Health, but the department tracks influenza activity based on weekly reports from 13 health clinics around the state, school absenteeism reports and laboratory test results. Based on these reports, the first two cases of flu were confirmed during the last week of November, and influenza illness is now widespread in Vermont.

This season, the Health Department has asked health care providers and hospitals across the state to report deaths in anyone younger than age 18 where flu may have been a factor. This is part of a national effort to better understand the effect of influenza on young people.

For more information about preventing, recognizing and treating the flu: www.healthyvermonters.info.